Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami marked Iranian Women’s Day today by calling for the release of all political prisoners.
The Kaleme opposition website quoted the former president proposing that all women political prisoners be set free as a step toward “an end to all arrests and incarcerations and the establishment of all fundamental and civil liberties.”
Khatami, who was speaking to a group of young Iranian reformists, also emphasized the vital importance of moving toward free elections: “Large strata of society should not be excluded from elections because of their different perspectives.”
He also added that military and police forces must be kept out of elections, and candidates’ scrutineers must be present during every step of the vote count.
Khatami recently called for a reconciliation between Iran’s establishment and its people, calling for both sides to forgive each other for the sake of the country’s future.
Khatami’s comments evoked the controversial 2009 elections, which led to widespread protests amid allegations of vote fraud. The government crushed the protests and refused to accept allegations that the vote was rigged.
Over the past two years, numerous reformists as well as student, human rights and political activists have been arrested and sentenced to harsh prison terms in connection with the 2009 protests, which the establishment has come to refer to as “sedition.”
In the meantime, a group of senior clergy members has once more called for the release of the two opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who challenged the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and have been under house arrest since February for rallying people to march in support of recent Arab uprisings.
On the hundredth day of their house arrest, the clergy members write that the incarceration of Mousavi and Karroubi and their wives, Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karroubi, is “not in the interest of Islam or the security and stability of the country.”
The announcement, which was published on the opposition website Jaras, continues: “By insisting on the use of force when confronting protests and government critics of the government, and by fostering an atmosphere of insults and accusations through the media and the public sphere, the country is being pushed toward extremism by those who wish it ill.”
Iranian opposition leaders have been held under house arrest and cut off from the outside world since February, even though no official charges have been brought against them.